Friday, June 02, 2006

Borrowed caponata

When I wrote in a recent post about a wonderful plate of antipasto that I ate at Carluccio's in London I had a note from Susan in Italy to tell me that the 'aubergine chutney thing' I enjoyed so much was probably caponata. In the end I don't think it was, because it didn't have tomato in it, but I have been introduced to caponata and now I think I could live on it. So a huge thank you to Susan, and here is how to make this fantastic sweet and sour Sicilian dish:

I have adapted this recipe, which comes from Kake's (Vegan) Cookery Site, and Kake adapted it from a recipe by Sheldon ( found at Epicurious, and Sheldon found it in the July 1991 issue of Gourmet Magazine, which goes to show that if you are going to borrow recipes make sure you borrow from the very best! It also features in Elizabeth David's Italian Food in which she describes it as 'An interesting dish. Try it in half quantities.' Her recipe (keeping up the borrowing tradition) comes from Edmond Richardin's L'Art du Bien Manger and he claims that it came from the chef of the German Ambassador in Rome.

I have omitted anchovies (Richardin) and green olives (Sheldon) because I didn't happen to have any, and used sherry vinegar because I did happen to have some of that and I didn't have any red wine vinegar. The basic ingredients remain the same.

Olive oil
1 aubergine diced, salted and left to drain for half an hour, then rinsed and patted dry.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 stick celery, chopped
2 tbsp capers, drained
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tbsp sultanas/golden raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Cook the aubergine in oil until soft, but still retaining a little firmness. Transfer to a bowl.
Clean pan if necessary. Add more oil to pan and cook onion and celery until onion is soft but celery retains a little bite.
Add capers, vinegar, sugar, raisins, pine nuts and tomatoes and cook through. Let the liquid from the tomatoes evaporate off.
Add aubergines and parsley and stir through. Transfer to a bowl to cool, overnight if possible. Check for seasoning and serve.

Actually I couldn't wait for it to cool overnight. I ate it warm. I ate it for lunch the next day. I would have eaten it for breakfast if I had remembered.

This is a dish that you make according to your taste, and whatever you happen to have available. Next time I will try it with anchovies, and perhaps some black olives, although the recipe says green. I think it looks beautiful.


Susan in Italy said...

Your caponata looks lovely. I wonder if the Selfridges' chef really DID make an eggplant chutney...

June said...

Hi Susan
Not a very good photograph I'm afraid - under an umbrella. The chef was Antonio Carluccio's and I think perhaps you are right, caponata minus the tomatoes - just might work!

Richard said...

It IS caponata, because after tasting it at Carluccio's I made it using the Carluccio's recipe I found online (the menu at Carluccio's also calls it caponata, which seals it...). I used bottled passata instead of sugo (waitrose organic), no capers, and added a touch of chilli powder - and although not quite up to Carluccio's standard, it was pretty good (especially after settling for a day). Ensure that you use the right olives, which are the pinky-pale purple black ones, not the deep black-purple - hard to find pitted. Lastly, it can cook for MUCH longer than the recipe suggests. Enjoy!

June said...

Thank you for settling this! It would be great with passata, and the olives will give it that edge. I will try.

Liz said...

Oh, fantastic. I have never managed to make a caponata as good as the Carluccio's one (I used to work on a magazine in Covent Garden and spent half of my salary there, and the other half in Pout).

I had no idea there was a Carluccio's recipe online - must give it a shot. O happy day!

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